Police in appeal for calm in East Belfast after clashes
Police and community leaders have called for calm after Belfast was hit by a series of sectarian incidents.
The call comes after police said they would increase their presence in east Belfast following a third night of street violence between Protestant and Catholic youths.
Two petrol bombs were thrown during clashes, which involved around 40 young men and teenagers.
One group targeted a house on Albertbridge Road and left a young family terrified after their windows were smashed with golf balls.
Clare O’Donnell said her children, aged two and eight, were playing in the front room of the house when missiles were thrown at their windows.
“There was a group of men outside shouting ‘UVF’. I don’t know why or what they thought they would achieve, but they left me and my children terrified. It was horrendous,” she said.
“This has been going on for some time and the police know where the trouble is going to happen but nothing is done. It can’t be allowed to go on, someone has to put a stop to it. Everyone should be safe in their own home.”
Rival factions also clashed in the Castlereagh Street, Mountpottinger Road and Woodstock Link areas.
It is not believed at this stage that the trouble is organised at anything other than a local level. PSNI Superintendent Mark McEwan said that any orchestration was through social media sites.
“We are working with community representatives to deal with the disorder.
“As a result of this ongoing situation, we will have a proactive policing operation in place.”
He appealed for parents to ask their children if they were being dragged into the trouble by others.
“Parents are reminded to ensure they know the whereabouts of their children as anyone caught engaging in disorder or criminal damage is likely to end up with a criminal record.”
According to police statistics, there were 1,313 violent crimes in the area over a 12-month period – an average of around 25 a week. A Protestant community leader commented: “Most of the time it’s just a few dozen youths running round but recently the trouble has worsened and I’m concerned that someone is going to be killed.”
Sinn Féin councillor for the area, Niall Ó Donnghaile, said attacks from either side of the interface needed to be condemned.
“People intent on causing trouble need to stay away from this area and let the residents on both sides live in peace.
“We have had a relatively quiet summer and we don’t want to see anything that raises community tensions in the area,” he said.
Mr Ó Donnghaile said he believed there was a degree of orchestration around these attacks.
“This is a worrying development and I would call on all leaders in east Belfast to work to ensure that the incidents witnessed here last night are not repeated,” he added.
Speaking on behalf of the Unionist community, UUP councillor Jim Rodgers said: “People in the area are just fed up with this. We are trying to bring investment into east Belfast, but business owners are sick of what is going on. So are residents.
“People don’t want to feel like prisoners in their own homes, but between 9pm and 2am these thugs try to rule the streets.”
• Police have appealed for information after a Catholic man was badly beaten in front of his girlfriend and eleven-week-old baby by a masked gang who broke into his home. The attack happened on Ballygomartin Drive, East Belfast. The family has been in the house for less than five weeks after moving into the area. Sectarian graffiti was daubed on the house claiming to be from the UDA.